What makes a great country song?
For 15-year-old musician Hannah Gazso, it’s the story.
“The first thing I tune into is the lyrics,” she said.
“Country music always has to have a heart to the story and something that resonates with the people who listen to it. That’s the most important thing at the end of the day. That’s why country music is so different from other genres. There’s always a story and always heart.”
Gazso was one of the musicians performing at the Alberta Country Music Awards Songwriters Showcase at the Cambridge Hotel and Event Centre in Red Deer on Saturday.
Bobby Wills, musician and host of the event, said the best country songs are like “a great movie.”
“A great country song has to communicate emotions, whether it’s to make you laugh, or to make you cry, or whatever it is. That to me is songwriting,” he said.
“It’s like a having great character in movie, where it’s open enough to put your own life into it, but closed enough to tell a great story.”
Musicians at Saturday’s event explained the story behind their own songs before performing to the dozens in attendance.
Gazso said you never know when musical inspiration will strike.
“An idea will come to me. I’ll put it into my phone and then I’ll sit down a couple days or weeks later after letting it sit for a little while and try to figure out what I want it to sound like,” she said.
“There’s no method (to writing) for me, it’s kind of different every time. I like to sit down, feel the song out and just kind of play some chords and sing some notes. Usually, it comes together.”
Musician Michela Sheedy, who also performed at the showcase, said songwriting can be a challenge.
“It’s all about storytelling and it’s all about the message you want to send. Every songwriter’s pattern and way of creating is going to be a little bit different,” said Sheedy.
Chard Morrison, Association of Country Music in Alberta secretary and treasurer, said the Songwriters Showcase is a favourite event for many attendees.
“It’s a chance for the songwriters to go behind the scenes of how the song was made. It could be a melody, it could be an idea, it could be a concept,” said Morrison.
“This is where we actually get a chance to showcase the story behind the song. All the other events this weekend, we’re showcasing the artist, we’re showcasing what they’re doing, the full band and everything. This is … the truth and the heart of the song.”